My View: Readmeet at Pune
It took some confusion around Chandni Chowk and I ended up driving opposite the flow of traffic (twice) on the ramp leading off the highway, but was able to make it to Max's place just before 1600h. Most of the crowd trundled in by 1630h barring a few stragglers. Mr. Moderator, Siddharth, initiated the round of formal introductions. Going by my suggestion, each person not only gave out his name, but also said a bit about 'the book that impacted me the most'. While most of us felt that our lives had been impacted by more than one book, some of the introductions were very unique. Like, for Manasi, it was her XIIth std. Physics textbook that convinced her to drop Science and plunge into the Arts. And then, the Bible, created a few ripples, what with Ramgopaul saying that it got him converted to a Christian and Titash saying that it made him an atheist!
The serious business of the readmeet began when Rucha poignantly read out a poem by Dinesh called, "Pixellated Imbroglio", which was an ode to his lost online love. However, due to some of the technical language he had used (bits, bytes, 1s and 0s) I thought it was actually a humorous verse to his computer, until the end where the true nature of his love-interest was revealed. Next was Raamesh, who read a short story called, "Divorce". Frankly I was expecting a kind of antithesis to H.G. Wells' "Marriage', but what followed had the entire assembly in splits. It was a cleverly crafted plot about the petty financial issues that arose within a working married couple after the budget was announced, leading to their divorce. Raamesh claimed that he wrote the story about an hour after watching the budget. This was my ‘best of the short story stash’ that we heard at the readmeet. Raamesh followed it up with an equally side-splitting Valentine’s poem from a dog to a bitch.
Sudarshan then stirred our minds with two short poems: "Quilt" and "Words". There was an astonishing disparity of interpretations of "Quilt" from the audience, which probably forced Sudarshan, himself to re-look at his poem. "Words" was nicely worded and subtly highlighted the impact of technology on writers of this age with its reference to the ‘blinking cursor’. After Sudarshan's poems and the buzz of discussion on them, I took the 'hot seat' and read out "Threads", which is the piece I had posted to the writing exercise on Ryze. The only thing I feel like saying here is that no one clapped for my piece. I waited for the promised loud applause that ensued after each reading but it never came. :( However, a number of the audience seemed to agree that I have a penchant for dark writings. Geetanjali followed me with another dark, sensational, offering called, "La Femme Fatale" with the sexy, exotic Nicola, an actress of questionable reputation, as its protagonist. The images Geetanjali wove into her plot were sizzling (*giggle*). After, hearing the story, most of us felt that it was a couple of notches higher than "La Femme Fatale" and Sudarshan suggested "The Black Widow" as the title.
There came a break, the best part: the abundant spread of goodies on the table. The way I feel about food, Titash is convinced that I attend readmeets only for this part. The snack-break lasted a good twenty minutes during which recently-read works were re-visited, writers congratulated, introductions extended and coffee instantaneously binged upon (not literally). It was truly commendable that Max and Nino, having arrived from the hospital with Mimi, only a few hours before us, could actually pull off such splendid hospitality. More Max!
Max kicked off the second session with two poems by Praneeta, "Black" and "Disillusionment" , and his own story called “The Licking”. Having been a victim of Max’s last experiment at Navi Mumbai, this title brought dubious images to mind and Max lived up to them. This breed of stories that involves a substantially elevated risk to a certain male species’ member is sure to make hot sales, or so, methinks. But besides, the humour, Max painted a subtle picture of (terribly) Parsi culture and nuances. Two poems from Vinod sobered the gathering. The first called “City of Joy” was about Vinod’s experiences in the alleys of the city of joy. What I liked about this moving poem was how it reflected his perspective through the lens of a camera. The second one, emotively read by Dinesh, was a romantic, "Silent Waves". I loved the allegory of the flower and the bees and one particular line stayed with me throughout this day, “They (the flowers) know the footsteps of bees”.
And then our good moderator, Sid, shared his work, or rather, shared his darkness with us genteel folks. “Dark Avenger” was Sid’s message to the world to let out their emotions, especially anger. Shilpa thought he was advocating violence through his poem, and while I agree that from a certain angle that does appear true, but I found that this anger was shaded with bravery. Whatever the meaning, the language and the way he wielded it was dark, and mystifying. This was followed by a short story, "At Dawn They Wake". It was loosely based on the fight between good and evil with Odin and Gabriel personifying them respectively. Once again, picturesque language was what captivated us. Raamesh couldn’t have put it better, “Your words follow you like the rats of Hamlin did the Pied Piper!” And just when we thought what a fantabulous array of fiction and poetry, Titash presented the cherry on the icing. His innocuous-sounding title “The Pressure-cooker” headed a heart-rending tale behind the odd gift that a superrich father gives his daughter for her wedding. I say, he did get the loudest applause!
And finally because it was time and we were still not ready to leave, Neel was allowed an indulgence of two poems, which he considerately kept short. I don’t believe I heard names but the first was unanimously ‘cute’ and the second was read in such a hurry that me and my little brain had hardly enough time to ponder its meaning.
Going back to that first readmeet at Titash’s place, I’m awed by the feeling that we’ve grown so much since then, not just in number (we eventually were 37 people) but also in the kind of work that’s being read out at each readmeet. We had six short stories (five of which were amazing) and about ten poems and a gala time. Come quicker April!